La Gioconda is an opera in four acts by Amilcare Ponchielli to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Angelo by Victor Hugo. First performance: Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 1876. La Gioconda was a major success for Ponchielli, especially in its third and latest version (Teatro alla Scala, Milan, March 28, 1880), as well as the greatest success in the history of Italian opera between Verdi's Aida (1871) and Otello (1887). It is also the most famous example of the Italian genre of Grande opera, the equivalent of French Grand-OpÃ¨ra. It is one of only a few operas that features a principal role for each of the six major voice types. Barnaba, a spy for the Inquisition, contemptuously watches a crowd of Venetians gathered in the Dogeâs courtyard for a regatta on the Grand Canal. When the crowd rushes off to watch the race, he reflects on his passion for the beautiful street singer La Gioconda. The singer leads in her blind mother, La Cieca, who blesses her daughterâs kindness. Barnaba tries to force himself on Gioconda, but she escapes him. And it only gets better from there. This vintage 1952 recording stars Maria Callas, Fedora Barbieri and Gianni Poggi. Antonino Votto conducts.